Saturday, March 02, 2013

86. Just In Time for Clustr Maps' 1st Anniversary

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If you please glance at the Clustrmaps widget on the right: you’ll soon see that it’s its first anniversary. Of course it doesn’t coincide with the date when I created the blog; I wish it did!
Thank to all those who, after stumbling upon my ‘creation’, chose to visit more than once.

So, back to the starting point – in the absence of a decision, still posting until numerology gives me a clue.


Needless to say, words are more often than not misleading.  Suppose you want to express what the intended result of your actions is: as soon as you try, you will see that cause (why) and purpose (what for) are very close to one another in the expression of their possible initial questions, yet not so in the linguistic structures you must use when answering:

Why did you do that? ~ Because I thought I would help.
What did you do that for? ~For you to stop worrying.
You'll find exercises for the three cases here

-->Case One. If the subject in the newly created clause of purpose is the same as the one in the main clause, AND the latter is in the affirmative, then the connectors to be used are:

to + Infinitive                            so as to + Infinitive                    in order to + Infinitive
Dylan lit a cigarette to smoke it.
The Smiths are saving money so as to buy a new house.
Eugene is learning languages in order to travel around the world.

If the subject is the same in the main clause and in the newly created clause of purpose BUT the latter is in the negative, you can only use the following:
so as not to + Infinitive                             in order not to + Infinitive

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You must have already observed that you can’t use the negative Infinitive ‘not to do’, simply because it is specialized in expressing prohibition, and it works wonderfully in Indirect Speech – but not here!

Donald put his wallet into his inner pocket so as not to lose it.
Laura drove her car slowly in order not to have an accident.

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-->Case Two. The subject of the subordinate clause is different from the subject of the main clause. This means that someone does (or did) something with the purpose of obtaining something (else) from a different person (or entity).

Here, consider two possibilities.

(a) With a subordinate clause of purpose expressing a present or future intentionality, the verb in the main clause is expressed in a present or future tense, or an Imperative. The connectors to be used are so that or in order that and the verb form can be will/can/may + [not] Infinitive, depending on what you mean to say.  

Bring the dead tiger here so that/in order that everybody will/can/may see it.
Mrs. Fleming has bought the newspaper so that/in order that her husband will/can/may read it.
I'll draw a map so that/in order that you can't/won't/may not get lost.

(b) With a subordinate clause of purpose which refers to the past, the verb in the main clause is expressed in a past tense. The connectors to be used are so that or in order that and the verb form can be would/could/might + [not] Infinitive, depending on what you mean to say.  

I left the room so that/in order that they could/might speak freely.
I switched on the radio so that/in order that we would/could/might listen to the news.
The murderer disguised himself as a priest so that/in order that the police wouldn't/couldn't/might not recognize him.
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-->So that can also be used when both the main clause and the subordinate clause have the same subject, yet in these cases  so as to, in order to and to-Infinitive are by far more frequent.


The expression of a subject and a direct object by animate entities (i.e., persons) in the main clause leads to misunderstanding: we don’t know whether the purpose refers to the subject or to the direct object.

Lily sent her grandson to the garden to rest a little.

Which of the two are supposed to rest – Lily, or else her grandson?
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(a) By using so that, the subject of both clauses is the same:

Lily sent her grandson to the garden so that she could rest.

(b) By using for + Accusative + to + Infinitive, the direct object in the main clause is the subject of the subordinate clause:

Lily sent her grandson to the garden for him to rest.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

85. Count Your Blessings

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If you are reading this post and find it worthy of attention, you are one of the millions of fortunate people who are doing well in life for reasons that you are well aware of, or that you mostly ignore. But wait, that's not the point: the important fact is that you do find it interesting enough to go on reading and that, when you get to the end of it, chances are you will also glimpse the message in between the lines.
 By now everybody who finished reading the whole short-story text should be able to give right answers to questions ‘hidden’ in the text below, highlighted in italics. They will represent the basis for the comprehension test on Flowers for Algernon, and as many reasons for debate.

  1. Charlie’s age at the beginning of the story was important when he was accepted at the special school for adults. There was something absolutely peculiar about Charlie’s desire to get smart, which made him a candidate for scientific experiments. But becoming smart is not a miracle taking place form morning till night. What is more, the idea of intelligence can hardly be reduced to what his IQ may represent: by extension, intelligence can and does manifest through all the facets of Charlie’s development, from academic performance to full enjoyment of his nature – body, soul and spirit.
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   2.  It is through writing that Charlie’s progress is observed and measured. Never has this technique been applied so systematically and successfully as in Flowers for Algernon. How can someone prove that he/she has made progress but through demonstrating that studying has been assimilated into memory, and that what was ignored is now known – therefore learned? 
  3. Learning through reading, learning from books [what on earth happened to reading – I wonder – for it to stop being a means of ‘getting smart’?!]. It’s not by chance that the first hard book Charlie reads is an adventure book speaking about civilization.
  4. Charlie’s coming into being occurs both for him and for those with whom he comes into contact. There’s Donner (Donnegan in the film) and the team of peevish, down-to-earth workers, with their petty thefts and smart-Alec attitude; there’s Fay (in the audio), who helps Charlie discover that there’s pleasure in the union of a man and a woman – everything his mother had punished him for. And – of course – there’s Alice, the love of his life.
  5.  At the Scientists’ Convention, Charlie forecasts a grim outcome for the future of humanity. Perhaps his speech was too short for such an important scenario in which upgrading people’s minds would take place thanks to research.
  6.  At the peak of his cognitive abilities, Charlie launches his own theorem, which would explain why he will soon go back into nothingness, a resident at a centre for retarded adults. In this way he leaves a legacy for humanity – just in time, for soon forgetfulness will wipe out the languages he had learned, the insights into all the domains of human enquiry, and the skills that he had developed: reading, writing, and growing inside as a complex being, Universal Man.
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  7.Look at this picture: what do you think science should focus on?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

84. A Challenged Book

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It turns out that there are two versions of Flowers for Algernon: a short story (the one that has been uploaded in 14 successive posts) and a novel, whose contents have been presented through the 146 audio episodes (don’t miss out on them: it is there that you’ll find the ‘real’ Charlie. Make sure you’ve saved them all, and listen to them again and again.). The short story and the novel share many plot points but the novel expands significantly on Charlie's developing emotional state as well as his intelligence, his memories of childhood, and the relationship with his family and Miss Kinnian. Still, more important for the outcome of such an experiment is what made Flowers for Algernon a “dangerous book”:


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Flowers for Algernon is on the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999. The reasons for the challenges vary, but usually centre on those parts of the novel in which Charlie struggles to understand and express his sexual desires. Many of the challenges have proved unsuccessful, but the book has occasionally been removed from school libraries, including some in Pennsylvania and Texas.

In January 1970, the school board of Cranbrook, British Columbia, as well as Calgary, Alberta, removed the Flowers for Algernon novel from the local grade-nine curriculum and the school library, after a parent complained that it was "filthy and immoral". The president of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation criticized the action. Flowers for Algernon was part of the British Columbia Department of Education list of approved books for grade nine and was recommended by the British Columbia Secondary Association of Teachers of English. A month later, the board reconsidered and returned the book to the library; they did not, however, lift its ban from the curriculum. 

Fifteen words have been removed from the summary below, only to be offered, together with five ‘intruders’, for you to consider. Re-insert the ones which render the text meaningful and then check your answers.

Short story summary

The story is told through a series of journal entries written (1) _ the story's protagonist, Charlie Gordon, a man with an IQ of 68 who works as a janitor in a factory. He is selected to undergo an experimental surgical technique meant to (2) _ his intelligence. The surgery, already successfully tested on a mouse, is also a success and Charlie’s IQ triples.

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Charlie falls in love with his (3) _ teacher, Miss Kinnian, but as his intelligence increases, he surpasses her intellectually and they become unable to relate to (4) _ other. He also realizes that his co-workers at the factory, whom he thought were his friends, only liked him to be around so that they could make fun (5) _ him. His new intelligence scares his co-workers at his job; they start a petition to (6) _ him fired but when Charlie finds out about the petition, he quits. As Charlie's intelligence peaks, Algernon (7) _ declines — losing his increased intelligence and dying shortly afterward, to be buried in a cheese box in Charlie's backyard. Charlie discovers that this is, also in his case, only temporary.

He starts to experiment to find (8) _ the cause of the flaw in the experiment, which he calls the "Algernon-Gordon Effect". Just when he finishes his experiments, his intelligence begins to degenerate, to (9) _ an extent that he becomes equally as unintelligent as he was before the experiment. Charlie is (10) _ of, and pained by, what is happening to him as he loses his knowledge and his ability to read and write. Despite (11) _ to his former self, he still remembers that he was once a genius. He tries to get his old job (12) _, and tries to revert back to normal but he cannot stand the pity from his co-workers, landlady, and Ms. Kinnian. He decides to go (13) _ _ New York to live at the State-sponsored Warren Home School, where nobody knows about the operation. His (14) _ wish is that someone put flowers on Algernon's grave.

The novel opens with an epigraph discouraging people (15) _ _ at those who are perplexed or weak of vision. The epigraph is taken from Plato’s The Republic, part of which reads:                                                         
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Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.